Dallas: The US air force is retiring one of its earliest combat drones, the MQ1-Predator, an aircraft that provided war fighters an unmatched battlefield surveillance tool. With armaments added, the vehicle pushed mechanized killing into the unmanned age, allowing remote pilots to dole out death from above.
The air force fielded its first Predator, the RQ-1, a reconnaissance model, in April 1996. It weaponized the aircraft six years later with the addition of two Hellfire missiles. President George W. Bush’s administration pressed it into heavy service in Afghanistan (and later Iraq) following the 2001 terror attacks, and its use accelerated under President Barack Obama. The increased reliance on drones as a surveillance device that also killed militants—and, by accident, hundreds of civilians labelled as collateral damage —attracted scrutiny, criticism, and questions of legality.
As with the constant technical advances of consumer items such as smartphones, drones have likewise evolved, increasing in